My troubles began when Jiang Zemin came to power,' said Wang Lilian, a plump lady in her late forties, wearing the red and white uniform of a saleswoman in the furniture section of a big Shanghai department store. 'Before his era, I had a much better life. I worked in a state company for more than 10 years, where everything was taken care of. We had our medical costs paid and gifts of fish and cooking oil at Spring Festival. We lived in a small apartment in the city centre. 'But look at me now. I was laid off from the state firm and work here, under contract to a private boss who can fire me whenever he wants. I have to pay for my own medical care. Our apartment was demolished to widen a road, and now we live 70 minutes out of the city by bus. It is a miserable place, full of migrant workers and with few facilities. 'Chairman Mao is my hero. He was a real leader. Look at Jiang - what a joke. A fat man with no military experience, how can he be head of the army?' Ms Wang belongs to a class of people, numbering in the tens of thousands, who consider themselves losers in the 20-year transformation of China's richest city. Before Mr Jiang became Communist Party chief in 1989, they worked in secure jobs in state companies, paid low rent, enjoyed free health care and free education for their children, and the protection of a residence system that banned nearly all non-Shanghai people from working in the city. Now, their companies have closed or shrunk, tens of thousands have been relocated from the city centre to new apartments in the suburbs, and everything - schools, health, housing and pensions - comes with a price tag. The government has lifted controls on outsiders living and working here, opening the doors for thousands to compete with Ms Wang in the job market and keep wages down. 'Do not be deceived by the neon and the skyscrapers,' said Liu Gang, 51, who used to work in a metals factory and now drives a taxi. 'Shanghai has become richer over the last 10 years but the wealth is not evenly spread. The gap between rich and poor is growing every day. There are many on whom the sun does not shine. 'The losers are people like me, with little education. I wanted an education but was sent to the countryside in the 1960s and wasted my youth. How can we compete with these young people with MBAs who speak English and know how to use computers?' Mr Liu pins his hopes on his son to achieve the things he was unable to - get a university degree, a job in a foreign company or setting up his own business, buying his own house and his own car. He drives past the five-star hotels and luxury apartment blocks that cost up to 10,000 yuan (HK$9,400) per square metre. They were built on streets in central Shanghai that used to be full of two and three-storey homes occupied by ordinary people. 'None of this is for us,' he said. 'This is only for the rich - the foreigners, the rich Shanghainese and business people from Wenzhou and Jiangsu, who buy several apartments in the city so their children can go to our schools.'